TEBBUTT: THE 2014 HOME STRETCH
© Dongfend Motor Wuhan Open
At times few things seem as unending as the yearly merry-go-round of tennis tournaments but, as of tomorrow, the first of October, there are officially just two months remaining in the 2014 season.
Petra Kvitova, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Eugenie Bouchard in the final of the Dongfend Motor Wuhan Open in Wuhan, China last Saturday, will be one of the players extending her schedule to the limit when she and teammate Lucie Safarova lead Czech Republic against Germany in the Fed Cup final in Prague November 8-9.
In the 2014 WTA Media Guide, it’s clearly emphasized at the very end of this year’s calendar: “OFF-SEASON, 8-10 WEEKS.”
That claim looks good on the WTA because its efforts to shorten the calendar to improve the health of its players seems to have paid dividends this year. Among the top stars, only Victoria Azarenka has missed a significant amount of time (Li Na’s knee issue that forced her retirement was an ongoing and chronic problem). On the ATP World Tour side, its off-season is a mere 6-7 weeks.
The highlights of the fall will be the year-end championships for the women and men, in Singapore (Oct. 20-26) and London (Nov. 9-16) respectively.
It would now appear that Eugenie Bouchard, currently in fifth place behind the four players who have already qualified (Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep and Kvitova), is a lock to finish in the top eight and make it to her first year-end grand finale.
Bouchard played fairly well against Kvitova in the Wuhan final but had the misfortune of facing the Czech when she was again – as in the Wimbledon final – in imperious form. She basically ‘out-Boucharded’ Bouchard – hitting hard and flat and deep and consistently despite her very low margin for error. When the 6-foot, left-handed Czech is on her game like that, a lot of people would pay good money to see her go head-to-head against Williams, even if the American was at the top of her game. Kvitova is 0-5 against Williams but they have not played since last year’s WTA Championships in Istanbul and have had some close matches in the past.
In Bouchard’s tweet above after she lost the Wuhan final, it’s interesting to note the bandage around her middle fingers. She hurt her left middle finger early in the second set when she hit herself on a forehand follow-through.
“I have hit a million forehands in my life and I still can’t hit one without hitting myself,” she said in jest after the match. “With tape and adrenaline, (I could) still play as I normally would, but it’s pretty painful now. It’s surprising how such a small body part can actually be so painful.”
The finger was taped on Tuesday when she lost 6-2, 6-4 to Sabine Lisicki in Beijing. But her main problem was a thigh or hamstring issue that required a medical time-out and a wrapping after she double-faulted three times in losing the opening game of the second set. Beijing was always going to be a big ask for Bouchard after reaching the final in Wuhan, especially against a big hitter like the 25-year-old German. On a coolish day, after the 32-degree heat in Wuhan, Bouchard looked a little jaded at the start and physically diminished by the finish.
But her present fifth position in the Road To Singapore is more than 1,000 points (4,485 to 3,460) ahead of ninth place Angelique Kerber. That should assure her of making the $6.5 million BNP Paribas WTA Finals, and also of a minimum top-eight ranking finish for 2014.
Here’s Bouchard’s tentative schedule through the end of the season:
Sept. 29: Beijing
Oct. 6: Linz (Austria)
Oct. 14: Luxembourg
Oct. 20: Singapore (?)
In the off-season, between November 28 and December 13, she’s slated to play for the United Arab Emirates team in the new International Premier Tennis League. Listed on the IPTL website as other members of her UAE team are Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Richard Gasquet and Goran Ivanisevic.
Milos Raonic is in not nearly as favourable a position as Bouchard when it comes to him qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
At the moment, he is 70 points behind Tomas Berdych (3,510 to 3,440) for the eighth and final spot.
With current No. 7 David Ferrer – just 95 points ahead of Raonic – already out of this week’s Japan Open, there’s certainly room for advancement for the top Canadian.
In the picture above are five of the singles seeds for the ATP 500 event in Tokyo: (left to right) No. 1 Stan Wawrinka, No. 3 Raonic, No. 4 Kei Nishikori, No. 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 7 Kevin Anderson as well as doubles top seeds Mike and Bob Bryan. Both Wawrinka (1) and Tsonga (5) were upset on Tuesday.
As well on day two, Raonic (above signing after win) beat Bernard Tomic 7-6(3), 6-3 and will next face Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer.
His tentative schedule over the next few weeks is:
Sept. 29: Tokyo
Oct. 5: Shanghai
Oct. 13: Moscow
Oct. 20: Basel
Oct. 27: Paris
Nov. 9: London (?)
In doubles, Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic are safely in second place, behind Bob and Mike Bryan, for a spot in the London wind-up event. Nestor will be playing his 15th year-ender and has won it four times – twice with Zimonjic and once each with Max Mirnyi and Mark Knowles.
Things are not nearly as clear-cut for Wimbledon champions Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock. They are currently in seventh spot and will only be playing together twice more this year – next week at the Masters 1000 in Shanghai and then at the Masters 1000 in Paris at the end of October.
In Beijing on Wednesday, Pospisil will take on Novak Djokovic in the singles second round. His only previous meeting with the world No. 1 was in the 2013 Davis Cup semifinals in Belgrade, with Djokovic prevailing 6-2, 6-0, 6-4. Pospisil is 0-3 with Federer, 0-0 with Rafael Nadal and 0-0 with Andy Murray.
Here’s Pospisil’s tentative year-end sked:
Sept. 29: Beijing
Oct. 5: Shanghai
Oct. 12: Vienna
Oct. 19: Basel
Oct. 26: Paris
Nov. 9: London doubles (?)
The 2014 season for the women and men will be capped off by the Fed Cup and Davis Cup finals.
Fed Cup champions two of the past three years (2011, 2012), the Czechs will be favoured at home against a German team lead by Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic.
In Davis Cup, it will be a fascinating match-up at the 27,000-plus capacity stadium in Lille, France. The French team has depth with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon, Julien Benneteau and possibly the injured Gael Monfils but Switzerland, with world No. 3 Roger Federer and No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, has considerably higher-ranked singles players. The top Frenchman is Tsonga at No. 12.
If for any reason Federer or Wawrinka was unable to play, the remaining player would very likely not be good enough to beat the French because Switzerland is basically a two-man team.
So fitness is key for the Swiss, and Federer and Wawrinka could be tested playing the ATP World Tour Finals in London the previous week while the French players tune up on a different surface – the red clay that will be used in Lille.
FRANKIE D. TURNS THIDDY
Kyle Clapham / Tennis Canada
Frank Dancevic had his 30th birthday last Friday.
The most aesthetically-pleasing Canadian player since Glenn Michibata in the 1980s, Dancevic has had an up-and-down career.
He first came to prominence when he won the fifth and deciding match against Brazil in a Davis Cup tie in Calgary in September 2003, propelling Canada into the 2004 World Group.
Maybe his other most memorable performance was also in Davis Cup – a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 virtuoso victory over No. 34-ranked Marcel Granollers in Vancouver in February 2013. That remarkable display was flying Frank at his fabulous finest.
His career-high ranking was No. 65 in September 2007, at age 23.
He has reached two ATP finals – losing at the now-defunct Indianapolis event in 2007 and in Eastbourne in 2009 – both times to Dmitry Tursunov.
A back operation (herniated disc) in 2009 stymied his progress and he tumbled as far down as No. 456 in 2010. He managed to make it back to the Top 100 at No. 95 after Wimbledon in July of this year. But he then missed a chance to gain more points by deciding to play World Team Tennis for three weeks in July. Currently he resides at No. 144.
Last week, he lost in the first round of a $50,000 (US) Challenger event in Napa, California, to No. 382-ranked American qualifier Daniel Nguyen.
This week, he is the No. 8 seed at a $100,000 Challenger in Sacramento.
Hopefully Frank Russell Dancevic – that’s his whole name – has another resurgence in him.
One of the more handsome hunks on the men’s tour, Dancevic definitely needs to change this less than flattering current head shot (above) on the ATPWorldTour.com website.
A young man with the 30-letter name – Joao Lucas Magalhaes Hueb De Menzes – has appeared in some Futures draws recently in Brazil. If the 17-year-old Brazilian gets really good and keeps that full name, he’s going to create some challenges, especially on tournament scoreboards!
Fortunately, at least in the ATP rankings, he’s listed as Joao Menzes and is currently No. 892 in the world.
HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT
This Milos Raonic serving robot was set up on the courts next door to the Ariake Stadium at the Japan Open.
It can fire up to 260 km/hr (161 mph) but the model in Tokyo is limited to 210 km/hr (130 mph) for safety reasons.
Word has it that there are more Raonic Robots on the production line.